I’ve preached to you about women’s hockey. I’ve mentioned the 180 the softball team has taken. Now, it’s time to shed some light on a few of Wisconsin’s lesser-known athletes.If you like water, boats, oars and the ability to flex some insane muscle mass, rowing may very well be for you.But before you get too excited, you should be aware of grueling 6 a.m. workouts and the constant feeling of wanting to say “eff it” that the rowers endure. Doesn’t sound too terrible, right? Well, let’s just say rowing has its ups and downs and is definitely not a sport for everyone.Last year, the Wisconsin women’s open-weight rowing team raced to one of its best finishes ever. The squad won the Big Ten Conference title, and as a team had a program-best seventh place finish at the NCAA’s with individual boats taking spots as high as third.In light of last year’s triumph, the team is expecting to do just as well, if not better.“The combination of confidence supplied by the underclassmen mixed with the upperclassmen’s constant reminder of the struggle to achieve the victories in 2010 create the perfect launching pad into even better triumphs in 2011,” junior Hayley Leinss said in an email to The Badger Herald.However, recognizing that success has been more difficult for the squad this season thanks to the Wisconsin weather and a winter that just doesn’t know the meaning of goodbye.UW rows against schools from across the country on a regular basis. Schools in California, Texas and other warmer climates actually have the opportunity to row their boats on water.Wisconsin hasn’t been so fortunate.“I think every season starts kind of rocky for [us], spring break is the first time we’re on the water since November and we go up against teams that have open water all year round,” junior Rachel Buchholtz said in an email to The Badger Herald. “I think we’re going to be faster this year than we were last year, we just wont peak until the end of the season when we’ve gotten more water time and finalized the line-ups for the fastest boats.”In fact, the Badgers have had more time on the water elsewhere than on Lake Mendota, their home course.So far this season, Wisconsin has competed in four regattas, three of which have taken place outside the Midwest.Instead of being able to actually row, the Badgers have been building their strength and endurance, transforming themselves into one of the fittest teams in the field. Their regimens have a clear translation to the boat when it comes time to actually race.Despite the lack of water time so far this season, the team has already showed promise.Through their four regattas (which span days) the Badgers have finished in the top four in three of them. Wisconsin won its Big Ten double dual against Michigan and Michigan State. Most notably, UW raced two boats in the San Diego Crew Classic – which wasn’t a team event – and each placed fourth.“We were very successful at the Crew Classic, finishing fourth, beating out the University of Washington who was ranked ahead of us,” Buchholtz said.If Wisconsin wants to build off the success it had last year, the whole team has to be committed. Rowing has no quarterback to lead an offense or goalie to keep the other team from scoring. But it’s also not an individual effort.Each rower in each seat on each boat must be committed to the team effort. If one rower is off, the whole boat will have issues.“It’s the ultimate team sport,” Buchholtz said. “There are no star players, one person can’t carry the team and if one person has an off day…the whole boat has an off day. You can have the eight fastest rowers in one boat and it still won’t go fast if they aren’t perfectly in sync.”As much as they rely on one another, the rowers also know they all have the same mindset – they’re crazy and will never be able to fully explain their love for their sport.For those people who don’t row, it looks easy. For those who have known the pain, they question why someone would ever commit themselves to four years of it, competing at the collegiate level.“To be a rower, you walk a fine line between dedication, obsession and just plain crazy,” Leinss said. “The lack of recognition on campus provides fuel to the fire for most rowers. A typical morning of waking up while it’s still dark, biking to the boathouse, practicing on icy Lake Mendota while trying to avoid sinking from all the whitecaps and then rushing to an 8:50 [a.m. class] starving and still chilled to the bone only to hear other students complain about how tired they are tends to bring to mind the words, ‘You don’t even know.’”After an indefinable amount of time on the team, most girls quit.“Out of the 160 girls who start on the novice roster their freshman year, maybe eight will make it all four years,” Buchholtz added.While rowing might not get much recognition on campus – like many other non-revenue sports – it carries a chip on its shoulder that only makes it stronger.Kelly is sophomore intending to major in journalism. Do you think the rowers are just plain insane? Let her know at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @kellyerickson4.
Racing today comes from Punchestown.The first of a seven-race evening card is at 5.45pm.